As we are all aware, the City has experienced two serious fires in the past month that bring the condition of our aging water distribution system and hydrants to light. In response to these tragic fires, I submit the following report as to immediate and long-term actions the City has taken and is making to address identified deficiencies.
After the first fire on Mechanic Street, City Engineer Richard Phillips, Fire Chief Rich Liberti, Corporation Council Gerry DeCusatis and I met on April 27th to discuss our concerns. From that meeting, the following actions had been taken:
Water flow had been tested in the Mechanic Street vicinity. The testing is now being expanded to the surrounding area which will encompass approximately forty hydrants, concentrating on hydrants connected by 4″ lines. We hope to complete this action within ten days. We will systematically document findings in order to develop a comprehensive hydrant strategy.
Every city-owned, vacant property was assessed for safety. An officer from the AFD walked around each structure to identify need for securing the building or if there were any hazardous or flammable materials that needed to be removed. Corrective measures were recommended to appropriate staff.
The hydrant flushing program is nearing completion and a detailed report is being generated, documenting hydrants that are problematic or out of service.
An additional hydrant module was added to the Alpine fire department/code enforcement software purchase (cost split between AFD and Engineering) to map location of hydrants and water lines. The County has provided information for the module which is suspected to have been generated from a model that was produced by McDonald Engineering several years ago.
The Common Council has budgeted for the purchase and installation of thirty new hydrants to replace the most compromised of our 1,200 hydrants around the city. McDonald Engineering will prepare bid documents and help develop replacement strategy.
Today, we fine tuned our plan:
Fire Chief Richard Liberti will immediately develop an operational plan for emergency response on the hill, to ensure a water source is secured in the event of another fire.
City Engineer Richard Phillips will request submittal of the flushing report from the water crew.
The Engineer and Chief will meet with Tom Bates of McDonald Engineering to review a large map of the hydrants and water lines in the City, especially focusing on targeted areas of concern. We will assess what the older model McDonald contained, what we may use it for now and how it should be updated. Our long range goal will to be to incorporate GIS information into a digital mapping system for use in emergency response, planning, tracking, and maintenance of the water distribution structures.
Engineering, DPW and the AFD will be provided updated, color-coded maps which will be posted at each department for training, planning and response purposes.
We will determine the GIS coordinates of each hydrant and valve. We would like to work with college interns over the summer to gather this information, but this work may need to be hired out. This information will be incorporated into the Alpine software.
We will put together a comprehensive hydrant strategy:
– develop full inventory of hydrants (address, hydrant number, GIS location)
– determine flow rates for each (may need to be hired out)
– identify problems/prioritize response
– gather hydrant specs, history of specific hydrants
– ascertain maintenance needs: man hours per hydrant
– develop maintenance schedule, new reporting documents and protocols
– number and color-code hydrants to indicate pressure at source
– review flushing procedure with water crews to ensure turbulent flow at flushing
– fall winterization program
Managing staff will be meeting several times over the next month to move these tasks forward. Any questions or comments may be made to my office: email@example.com.
Lastly, it should be noted that we do not have a “fire bug” starting these fires. The Mechanic Street fire was started by a thirteen old boy with a lighter and a spray can. We think the Orange Street fire may have been started by the cigarette of a resident.
Photos by Mark Perfetti